About This Artwork

Diego Rivera
Mexican, 1886–1957

Portrait of Marevna, c. 1915

Oil on canvas
145.7 × 112.7 cm (57 3/8 × 44 3/8 in.)
Signed lower left: D. M. R.

Alfred Stieglitz Collection, gift of Georgia O'Keeffe, 1957.628

© 2018 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Early in his career, Diego Rivera enjoyed a brief but sparkling period as a Cubist painter. After years of rigorous art training in Mexico City, he traveled throughout Europe from 1907 to 1910. In l9l2 Rivera settled in Paris, where he befriended other emigré avant-garde artists, such as Amedeo Modigliani and Piet Mondrian. During World War l, he became a leading member of a group of Cubists that included Albert Gleizes, Juan Gris, and Jean Metzinger. The subject of this portrait is Rivera’s lover at the time, Marevna Vorobëv-Stebelska, a Russian-born painter and writer. Photographs of the sitter, which show her distinctive bobbed hair, blond bangs, and prominent nose, reveal Rivera’s gifts of observation. Seated in an overstuffed armchair, she turns away from the book she holds in her lap, as if momentarily—perhaps angrily—distracted. Vorobëv-Stebelska is stylishly dressed in a gold-brocade bodice, white sleeves, and a dress whose shape hints at a pair of crossed legs. To her right appears a green, faux-marble form that may be a fireplace, and behind her is a schematically rendered window and shutters. In this Synthetic Cubist composition, Rivera used color to suggest spatial recession, making the planes meant to be closer to the viewer brighter than those at further remove. The painting’s somber and rich color harmonies recall the palette of Gris. Following World War I and the Russian Revolution, Rivera, like many other artists in Paris, rejected Cubism as frivolous and inappropriate for the new age. In 1921 the painter returned to Mexico, which itself had emerged from a decade of revolutionary struggle. There, adopting monumental forms that suited the country’s new political reality, he began to produce work for which he is acclaimed today: paintings, graphics, and, above all, murals depicting Mexican political and cultural life.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Modern Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Diego M. Rivera and Mexican Pre-Conquest Art, October 2-21, 1916, cat. 6.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Diego Rivera, December 23, 1931-January 27, 1932, not listed in cat.; traveled to Pennsylvania Museum of Art, February 3-10, 1932 and February 12-29, 1932.

Philadelphia, Pa., Philadelphia Museum of Art, History of an American Alfred Stieglitz: "291" and after: Selections from the Stieglitz Collection, 1944, cat. 121.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Stieglitz: His Collection, June 10-Aug. 31, 1947, cat. 98, as Portrait of Madame Marcoussis.

Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Artes Plasticas, Exposición nacional: Diego Rivera, 50 años de su labor artistica, August-December, 1949, cat. 80, ill. n.p., as Retrato de Madame Marcoussis.

Detroit, Mich., Detroit Institute of Arts, Diego Rivera: A Retrospective, Feb. 10-Apr. 27, 1986, cat. 30, fig. 49; traveled to Philadelphia, Pa., Philadelphia Museum of Art, June 2-Aug. 10, 1986; Mexico City, Mex., Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Sept. 29, 1986-Jan. 4, 1987.

Paris, France, Réunion des musées nationaux, Musée d'Orsay, New York et l'Art Moderne: Alfred Stieglitz et Son Cercle [1905-1930], Oct. 18, 2004–Jan. 16, 2005, cat. 100, ill. p. 179.

Art Institute of Chicago, "The Modern Series: Shatter Rupture Break," February 15-May 3, 2015, no cat.

Publication History

Museo Nacional de Artes Plasticas, Exposicion de Homenaje Nacional, Diego Rivera: 50 Años de Su Labor Artistica, (México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1951), no. 80, ill. n.p.

Bertram D. Wolfe, "The Strange Case of Diego Rivera," Arts Digest 29, 7 (Jan. 1, 1955), ill. p. 8.

Florence Arquin, Diego Rivera: The Shaping of an Artist, 1889-1921 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), pp. 84-86, pl. 9, p. 52.

Taracena 1979, p. 40, fig. 66.

Marius de Zayas, "How, When, and Why Modern Art Came to New York," introduction and notes by Francis M. Naumann, Arts Magazine 54, 8 (April 1980), pp. 119-120, fig. 107.

Ramón Favela, Diego Rivera: The Cubist Years, exh. cat. (Phoenix Art Museum, 1984), pp. 111, 123.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p.34, ill.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 10.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 96.

Ownership History

Alfred Stieglitz, New York (died 1946) and Georgia O'Keeffe, New Mexico; placed on long-term loan at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1949; formally accessioned by Art Institute of Chicago, 1957.

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